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Estate planning essential for singles

Everyone needs an estate plan, but many Colorado residents probably don't have one. Statistics indicate that more than half of all Americans don't have wills, which are the most basic of estate planning documents.

A will designates how people want their assets to be distributed upon their death. If a person does not have a will, the probate court will determine distribution, most likely in favor of the spouse and children. Problems can arise if the person is single. Who gets the assets then? The assets will be distributed in accordance with the state's laws of intestacy. Unfortunately, this could result in the estate going to relatives that the decedent did not particularly care for or that he or she had become estranged from. This is why having a will can be important.

Powers of attorney also are an important part of estate planning. These documents should cover finances and health care, allowing a trusted friend to handle affairs if a person becomes incapacitated. In addition, powers of attorney are necessary if a couple is only living together, because in most cases an unmarried partner will have no authority to make these decisions.

Having basicestate planning documents in place isn't just for the rich. Anyone with assets should have at least a simple will. However, wills generally must go through the probate process, which can be expensive and protracted. In addition, it is public, and thus people who value their privacy and who want their beneficiaries to receive their inheritances more rapidly might want to meet with an attorney and see if having a trust instead of a will would be advisable.

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